OWNERS of entertainment centres such as restaurants, lounges and bars, were unhappy on Thursday with the cabinet-approved bill that bans smoking in public buildings and open air spaces, even for electronic cigarettes.
The bill aims to replace the existing law on smoking controls and to align national legislation with the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive.
According to the bill, smoking will be prohibited in all workplaces, hospitals and schools, including open spaces. In the non-smoking areas, smoking electronic cigarettes, herbal smoking products and water pipes (hookah), will also be prohibited.
The ban also includes the sale of packages containing under 20 cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco under 30 grammes.
Harsher penalties are also provided, with fines reaching €2,000 and the suspension of operations of a non-abiding business for up to four days, with the option for a court to extend that penalty.
The government would like to see the bill, which is currently for discussion at the House health committee, passed into law the soonest as Cyprus has been cautioned by the European Commission since July for the delay in harmonising its national legislation with the directive.
The head of the recreation centres association, Fanos Leventis, expressed the group’s disagreement with the proposed bill.
“It is being insinuated that the (EU) directive provides for complete (smoking) bans, when this is not the case. Each member-state can have in place their own legislation according to how they see fit,” Leventis said.
The last years, he said, when the failed legislation on the total ban on smoking has been in place, the association had put forth “sensible, well studied, and backed proposals” giving the possibility to establishments – if they wish – to host smokers “under strict preconditions by applying stringent standards applicable in other countries”.
Despite that, Leventis said, the parliamentary committee is ignoring their proposals “in hopes that by enforcing a stricter legislation it will bring the desired results”.
AKEL MP and committee member Giorgos Georgiou said that this is a very important issue that has been “troubling the commercial and financial life of the country, but which the government failed to regulate”.
“We are called to vote a harmonising bill which makes the law even stricter (on smoking controls). We believe that the state and society ought to shape a culture of prevention, so that we can reach a point where no repression is necessary, to shape a healthy culture concerning smoking,” Georgiou said. “Health is above all”.
Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis, whose intervention urged the committee to scrutinise the bill in its next meeting, criticised the government for delaying the harmonisation of the legislation with the EU directive.
“We believe that a critical issue as regards public health is the protection of passive smokers or non-smokers, which is why we support the stringent clauses set by the new legislation provided that the state decides to have them implemented,” Perdikis said.